U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said Wednesday he's still studying the text of a bipartisan gun bill and is weighing whether it does enough to protect gun owners' constitutional rights before he decides how to vote.
Grassley, a Republican, voted against opening debate on the legislation Tuesday night. He said he was only given the final text of the legislation about an hour before the procedural vote.
"I didn't have time to go through an 80-page bill - I think it's 80 pages long - and we're doing that right now," Grassley told reporters Wednesday morning.
Fourteen Senate Republicans voted Tuesday in favor of advancing the legislation, including Iowa's other senator, Joni Ernst. A final vote on the bill is expected by the end of the week.
Grassley is seeking reelection to an eighth term in the U.S. Senate this year. His Democratic opponent, retired U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Franken, supports more gun control efforts, including expanding background checks and training for gun owners.
The current legislation is a response to recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas, and is being negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators.
It would expand background checks on gun buyers 21 years old and younger to include their mental health and juvenile justice records and provide a 10-day waiting period to complete the review. The bill would also create a new federal gun trafficking crime, expand which gun sellers must conduct background checks, provide money to states to enact so-called red flag laws, boosts mental health resources and make safety improvements at schools.
Grassley said Wednesday, "there's a lot in this bill that's good."
"I think all Iowans and I are disgusted with the gun violence tragedies and that's especially true when children are involved and even more so when children are in schools," he said. "And I think we've had a group of senators come together and produce something bipartisan. Almost all of it is good, but I have some concerns that I'm going to be wrestling with to decide a yes or no vote, and they deal with safeguarding constitutional due process."
The bill would close the so-called "boyfriend loophole" by making it harder for people convicted of domestic violence to purchase a gun.
Current law prevents domestic violence offenders from buying guns only if they had abused their spouses or live-in partners with whom they have children. The bill, if it becomes law, would block anyone convicted of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense who has a "current or recent former dating relationship with the victim" from buying a gun.
Grassley said he's concerned the bill's definition of a "dating relationship" is too vague and could lead to difficulty enforcing the provision in court.
"I think that needs to be clarified," he said. "And more importantly so no one's constitutional rights get swept up without recourse."
In a statement Wednesday, Franken said Grassley "refused to work across the aisle in order to save lives" by voting against opening debate on the bill.
"We must have responsible gun ownership in this country," Franken said in the statement.
USA Today contributed to this article.
Stephen Gruber-Miller covers the Iowa Statehouse and politics for the Register. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 515-284-8169. Follow him on Twitter at @sgrubermiller.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Chuck Grassley wresting with gun bill vote; 'almost all of it is good'